BROCK AND SALK

ESPN’s Fowler: Why No. 5 UW has hands full with No. 11 Oregon St

Nov 16, 2023, 11:33 AM

UW Huskies Michael Penix...

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. is pressured by Oregon State's Kitan Oladapo in 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

You know the UW Huskies are playing a big game when Chris Fowler is on the call.

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For the third time this year, ESPN’s A-team of Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call a Washington game when the No. 5-ranked Dawgs put their undefeated streak on the line Saturday against the 7-2 Oregon State Beavers, who are No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 11 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

A win for Oregon State, who are actually favored, would help keep the Beavers’ Pac-12 title hopes alive, while the Huskies can clinch a spot in the conference championship game with a win in Corvallis.

The last two UW games Fowler has called have been nail-biters, with the Huskies prevailing 36-33 over No. 6 Oregon last month in Seattle and Washington edging out then-No. 24 USC in a 52-42 shootout in Los Angeles.

It’s safe to say Fowler expects another close contest for the Huskies this weekend.

“I do. The Beavers, it’s kind of surprised all of us that they’re favored in the game,” Fowler told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Thursday. “Plenty of people respect this program and understand how hard they are to beat at Reser (Stadium) and also look at maybe some things in the matchup to give them some confidence. So I wouldn’t expect anything other than another one of those four-quarter Pac-12 games where it comes down to it …  It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Corvallis for a game but I have been there for some big ones, including a No. 1 (USC) team going down in 2008, and I know what that place is capable of producing in the way of drama, so we’re hopeful.”

Something to watch for with this matchup is the weather. The National Weather Service forecast indicates an 80% chance of rain during the day and 90% at night. The game is set for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff.

“The Huskies, they haven’t played in really bad weather,” Fowler said. “It’s been windy. I know the Utah game … was windy and they had a few raindrops I think in the Oregon game, but nothing like that if it gets seriously stormy on Saturday.”

If the weather is a factor, that would likely favor the Beavers’ run-heavy offense as opposed to UW’s vertical passing attack.

“Look, they’re gonna pound you, they’re gonna be physical,” Fowler said of the Beavers. “And I think they like their matchup of their offensive line against the Husky front, frankly. (Oregon State running back Damien Martinez) has been running well and I think they want that to be their personality. Anybody that plays Washington, you try to limit possessions, right? So the Huskies are gonna have to get off the field on third down and they’ve got to stop the run.”

UW, Oregon and USC boast three of the best offenses in the country, but Fowler says not to sleep on Oregon State.

“I think that (Oregon State head coach) Jonathan Smith looks at some of the categories and even though his offense has been totally overshadowed by Washington, Oregon and USC in the conference, he likes what they’ve done, and he thinks that they’re extremely capable,” Fowler said. “This isn’t a David and Goliath matchup … This is an Oregon State team that firmly believes that it can get to the Pac-12 Championship game, and they know they’re gonna need a win to do it.”

A potential Oregon rematch

If the Pac-12 stays on its current trajectory, we will see UW and Oregon rematch in the Pac-12 title game with a potential College Football Playoff appearance on the line.

As noted, UW can punch its ticket with a win this weekend. The Huskies can also get in if Utah beats Arizona.

As for the Ducks, they can clinch a spot in the title game with a win over Arizona State plus a UW win over Oregon State and Utah win over Arizona.

Fowler will likely get the call for the Pac-12 Championship, and he wouldn’t mind seeing UW and Oregon square off for a second time.

“First of all, I was just grateful to be in the building (last month). That was a really, really enjoyable experience,” Fowler said. “I haven’t called many games at Husky Stadium. It matched and then exceeded expectations. I thought we were going to see them again, that these are the two best teams in the league … I said I hope we get to see it again. I know we (at ESPN) have that conference title game … I was convinced that Oregon was as deserving as Washington.”

Fowler said Oregon likely feels “very comfortable” in a rematch and that the Huskies will likely be underdogs.

“And they don’t mind that. But I just hope we get a chance to see it,” he said. “…  I would love to get to Las Vegas and see those guys again. But first things first, it’s up in the air what’s going to happen in Corvallis and what’s going to happen in in the Civil War (between Oregon and Oregon State).”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with ESPN’s Chris Fowler in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the UW Huskies

Why aren’t No. 5 UW Huskies in the top four of CFP rankings?
Judge gives OSU, WSU full control of Pac-12 and millions in assets
• Huard: How No. 5 Dawgs are having best season since ’91
• Huard: Why a UW Huskies win over No. 10 Oregon St would be huge

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ESPN’s Fowler: Why No. 5 UW has hands full with No. 11 Oregon St